GCSE arts subjects in ‘free fall’ as results confirm 9% decline in entries

The number of GCSE drama students in England has fallen by 4%. Photo: Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock The number of GCSE drama students in England has fallen by 9%. Photo: Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock
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Arts education campaigners have reiterated the “devastating” impact of the English Baccalaureate on creative subjects, after GCSE entries were confirmed to have dropped for yet another year.

It follows shortly after this year’s A level results also highlighted declining numbers of students sitting creative subjects, with performing arts entries down 10% year-on-year.

The figures were criticised by leading education body the Association of School and College Leaders, whose general secretary said the government must “get to grips” with the continuing decline of music and drama.

The Stage first reported on the decline in the number of students taking GCSE drama in June, when exam regulator Ofqual released its figures for 2017. These findings have now been confirmed by the Joint Council for Qualifications as it published its statistics on GCSE results day on August 24.

In 2017, GCSE drama entries in England dropped by 9% on the previous year, more than double the decline reported between 2015 and 2016.

Since 2010, the number of students taking drama at GCSE level has fallen by 24%.

The number of students taking performing and expressive arts dropped by 17% in 2017, while music entries fell by 7.7%.

Overall arts uptake at GCSE was 9% less than in 2016, and has dropped by 28% since 2010.

Membership body the Cultural Learning Alliance commented on the “continuing free fall in arts GCSE entries”, while campaigners Bacc for the Future said the new figures highlighted a concerning year-on-year trend.

Campaign founder Deborah Annetts said: “The government’s own figures continue to show the devastating impact the English Baccalaureate is having on the uptake of creative, artistic and technical subjects in our secondary schools.

“With the Department for Education determined to continue with the deeply damaging EBacc – despite concerns from industry and higher education – this decline in uptake is unfortunately likely to continue.”